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Translations by non-native speakers?

I've been doing a bunch of translations recently, using the new wiki-style editor. I've noticed that quite a lot of translations are done by people who clearly have major troubles with English.

I don't mean to bring anybody down but this doesn't seem like a good idea. Sure, we can fix them and rate them and whatever but maybe you should be blocked from translating, for example, Italian articles into English, unless you've specified in your profile options that you are fluent in English.

It's a bit odd to go into a 100% translated article and find almost nothing is right. Hopefully, those articles don't ever get sent off to the customers of duolingo.

April 6, 2013



Being a user, I don't look upon my participation as a work of a translator. Learning on Duolingo is fun and challenging, and making translations is a way to learn and practice, not to judge other people. If Luis who founded this site is fine with giving everybody the opportunity to participate and contribute, why should we the users argue for any restrictions? If Duolingo's founders aimed at establishing a professional translation community, they might well have organized it otherwise.

I'd suggest we just do our best at learning and leave the team decide if anybody should be blocked. If you come across a very poor translation, just delete it and write your own from scratch as if this sentence has never been translated.


Hahaha ! That's pure wisdom there. I honestly got carried away by thinking we were the ones who should judge the final work made by Duolingers, while in fact this final work is not made for us to judge.

It has nothing to do with adding suggestions on a feature or something like that, because the fact that people with poor English knowledge literally destroy whole texts from the Internet (well destroy their translation really), doesn't affect in any way our experience as Duolingers, and therefore doesn't need any "fix", other than the ones the staff might decide to implement. We should concentrate on improving what really matters for us as Duolingers.

Thanks Olimo for clearing up my mind, I totally agree with you.

(no sarcasm in this post !)


[There is no need to be so sarcastic.] Blocking users with poor English of course makes sense if the final goal is good translations. Going further, we'll filter out native English speakers with poor spelling and/or style. Going even further, we'll admit only qualified translators. But those would want to be paid, won't they? And this will surely be quite another story, not very much like "learn languages and help to translate the Web".

I think that Duolingo is on its way to find out if crowdsourced translations made by general public for free can be efficient, and if yes, how it is to be arranged. Wikipedia is a great example with lots of volunteers working on articles. No one has to pass any tests to be able to edit Wikipedia and no user is held responsible for the style or grammar. However, the quality of articles is fairly good.

I'm all in for suggesting features, but the idea of blocking users just seems to be against the whole concept of Duolingo. There should rather be some mechanisms to discourage unnecessary edits for points and encourage good translations.


I know English grammar. I teach English grammar. When I try to translate from French, I want to see and work on honest differences of interpretation or phrasing, not just correct English grammar. I already get paid to correct English grammar, I'm a dork and I like it to an extent but I'm not inclined to do it on my free time.

I agree that blocking users may seem extreme, but I certainly wish users had a more realistic self-image - including some native speakers.


Well I wasn't sarcastic at all, that's really what I'm thinking, I really totally agree with you, and you really changed my view on how I see this specific matter. Usually when I'm sarcastic I use hints so the person realize it, I don't think I did in my previous comment, but sorry if I wasn't clear.

Maybe it was the fact that I wrote "hahaha" ? It's just that when I realized I didn't liked my previous way of thinking by reading your wise comment it made me smile in front of my screen so I began my sentence like this, but I wasn't mocking you.


Okay than :-) Web communication is often deceptive as we can't see each other or hear the tone of voice.

I might indeed be carried away by "hahaha", and I also was getting prepared to some confrontation or accusations of being selfish. However, I'm positively sure that a system that benefits of users who act for their own interests is the most stable and effective. I mean, I want to learn, I care about myself. I use translations as practice and do my best because that's how I learn best. I see questions, get interested, look for answers, post them and remember this new knowledge myself. So, even if my reasons are purely selfish, the result is useful for the whole system and that's great.

If there are users who cheat and abuse the system, the good solution is not to block them but to find ways to make cheating unattractive.

As for honestly made but still poor translations, there is no way but to correct them and maybe explain your corrections to help people learn. I am not a native English speaker myself and besides I work as a translator, so I know the industry and have no illusions about the quality of product I generate by translating from German into English.

Sorry for being so wordy :-)


I'd like a button to click next to the "100% translated" texts which says "Click here if you are a native English speaker and this translation is nonsense". I've seen several such translations and really it put me off bothering.

Then in those that are not yet 100% there have been several where my perfectly reasonable translation was given an Oops That Doesn't Appear to be Correct but thanks anyway, ... and then the ones to choose between were all nonsense written by people who didn't speak English to level 3 yet.


Maybe these people can translate into their native language? I would think their translations would be more useful and accurate if they could. Even if they were native speakes of languages like Greek, or Pillipino, that maybe don't have as many translators, would still be immensely useful.

Although, it is good practice for them I suppose. But I highly doubt these awkwardly translated versions get sent to a duolingo customer - the people that run this site are far from idiots.


Well, I agree that having people not fluent in English translating TO English is not ideal. If it was the other way around it could work better though (it's always harder to express yourself than to understand).

On the other hand I'm not sure a simple option to activate would be enough to prevent this from happening. I mean if people click for the first time on "immersion", they will see that they can't translate, so if it's done correctly there will be a tip to tell them how they can start to translate. They go into their settings, check a box and voilààààà, they can translate. So in the end we'll be left with the same problem.

I think a small test to pass would be good, maybe a few minutes long. Just to make sure the translators know the basic grammar and conjugation rules ?


Maybe.... just worried if they would be interested in joining Duolingo. I think that would block their minds. In the beginning, it's not quite hard to understand what has been taught if you have a minimal knowledge of english. Then, they would learn a new language while improving their english. I think that wouldnt be much fair once most of languages on duolingo are just for english speakers. They dont need to be set apart. I think a big warning telling them to starting translating just after overcome a specific number of skills would work better.


Thank you for thinking about Duolingo's interests, users are always welcome to share feedback on translation experience. Immersion better allows the community to work together on texts compared to the previous version where people would work more on their own. The advantage of this system is that people with different backgrounds can share their knowledge which may lead to a better end product. People had problems with the previous system as incorrect translations could be accepted as final. Thanks for checking on the quality of English. Your participation helps to create a better end product as well as a better learning experience for your fellow users.


How do translations get accepted as "final" in this system? Like I said, I could view the list of "translated" articles and find some entirely incorrect stuff, from top to bottom.


Good question. As this confuses me too. For example, on one of the Portuguese news translations about the Cypriot economic crisis, there was a line about the crisis causing stock markets to fall, using the word 'bolsas' in referring to the markets. However 'bolsas' also means 'bags', and many people were translating it as 'the Cypriot crisis was causing world bags to fall', which is clearly a nonsense. A few us had the correct translation, and I tried to edit all the wrong translations, but in the end, the final version was again about bags falling. This is not an isolated example of where some of us have tried to intervene to fix a clear nonsense, yet the nonsense has emerged as the final translation. And I don't even dare go to the example of people putting 'fishtails' in the Spanish translation of the Strawberry Bavarois recipe. I would shudder to think what people would cook if they actually followed the final versions of some of these recipes ;-)


You should still be able to give feedback on completed documents, the percentage is there to indicate how much of the document is translated. Duolingo isn't selling translations yet so there is still room for thoughts on how to check that final documents are correct.


The ability to explain why edits shouldn't be reverted may help. I don't want to step on anyone's toes and I don't want to discourage non-native english speakers from using and enjoying Duolingo, but we need a way to stop people from continuing to make poor corrections to already translated sentences. I keep trying to give the new immersion tab a chance but I end up frustrated when I get emails telling me that someone has changed markets to bags (using Birdexplorers example above).


good with you, sometime, the french traduction are nonsense! Gotta work on that...

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